Casual Gaming Apps Dominate the Japanese Gaming Market

By Ruoji Tang | November 29, 2022

In Japan and worldwide, interest in gaming apps spiked when the COVID-19 pandemic hid. But as pandemic measures scale back, there are still plenty of growth opportunities in the region for gaming apps looking to reach new users. 

According to Adjust data, Japan’s gaming market is still growing even as the country lifts COVID-19 restrictions. While average app installs between 2020–2021 grew YoY by 19% across all verticals, gaming, in particular, saw a massive surge—a 52% increase in installs over the previous year. 

Players in Japan are also spending more time playing games. Average session lengths have fluctuated since the early day of the pandemic, but sessions are still up 8% compared to pre-pandemic levels, with players spending over 26 minutes per session. Here are some more trends to watch from Liftoff and Adjust’s Japan Mobile App Trends 2022.  

Gaming apps market by installs and session lengths

Like users in other regions, users in Japan embraced mobile gaming during the COVID-19 pandemic. While average app installs between 2020–2021 grew YoY by 19% across all verticals, gaming in particular, saw significant growth—a 52% increase in installs. 

In addition to downloading more mobile games, Japan-based games are also spending more time per session playing. Since 2020, average session lengths have fluctuated, but overall, sessions are up 8% compared to pre-pandemic levels. Players in Japan are spending over 26 minutes per session. 

Looking at installs only, the mobile gaming market in Japan is dominated by four top genres, hypercasual, role playing, puzzle, and action. Hypercasual games post the highest install rate at 15%. But fans of this genre tend to switch off quickly, and they make up only 1% of the total share of sessions. 

Masaya Murakami, Director at KAYAC, observed that “the Japanese gaming app market has shown incredible growth despite the impacts of privacy changes and the COVID-19 pandemic.” He also notes the niche position that hypercasual games occupy: “The growth of hyper casual games was particularly impressive, and we also saw a boost at KAYAC. For hyper-casual games where ad promotion is key, it is essential to acquire and leverage accurate data to effectively run campaigns to drive the acquisition of high-quality users.”

Beyond hypercasual games, players in Japan tend to spend longer in RPGs and skills-based action games. Each genre makes up 17% of the total share of sessions, with install rates of 13% and 11%, respectively. 

Compared to global averages, retention rate averages in Japan are slightly lower. Day 1 retention rate is around 22%. This figure falls to 9% on day 7, and 3% by day 30.

Average CPI and ROAS for casual gaming apps

Costs per install for casual gaming apps fluctuated over the past year, but on average, CPI rates for casual gaming apps hovered around $5.46, staying below $6 for most of the year.

Casual gaming CPI, June 2021 - May 2022

CPI declined between June and October 2021 before rebounding over the next three months and peaking in December 2021 at $6.10. In the first half of 2022, CPI hovered at $5.70 before dropping in May.  

Casual gaming average for iOS and Android

Between 2020 to H1 2022, the average Day 7 return on ad spend (ROAS) rates hovered around 7.30%. Day 30 rates reached averaged 19.07%.

Costs by Platform: iOS vs. Android

Apple is still the platform of choice for mobile games in Japan. iOS devices host 67% of all gaming apps, while Android holds 33% of the total gaming app market share.

If we compare average Day 7 and Day 30 CPIs, iOS ($5.49) costs are slightly higher than costs for Android ($5.22). 

D7 and D30 ROAS

iOS and Android also have comparable average Day 7 ROAS rates (7.43% and 7.19%, respectively). But if we look at longer-term returns, Android slightly outperforms iOS by 2%.  Day 30 ROAS is around 18% on iOS and 20% for Android.

D7 and D30 ROAS by platform

Tackling Japan’s mobile gaming market

With comparatively lower costs and solid returns, now is an ideal time to tap into the gaming base in Japan. Liftoff’s Senior Country Manager for Japan & Korea Kota Amano observes, “the mobile economy has continuously grown since the pandemic started, which brings lower CPI trends in several app categories.”  He adds, “now is the time to consider what’s next for mobile marketing to accelerate the growth of your apps. At the same time, marketers need to know how to acquire engaged users post-install.”

To discover more user acquisition data and other vital insights, download the full Japan Mobile App Trends 2022